Sunday, 27 April 2008


Some people think that journalism and creative writing are two distinctly different things. In fact journalism - producing copy on whatever subject to the required length on deadline - demands a range of skills a lot of contemporary British writers could do with.

Jim Greenhalf had self-published three pamphlets of poetry before getting a job as a journalist in 1977. In the course of his work as a staff news reporter, columnist, news-feature writer and reviewer and feature writer, he covered not only big local and national stories - the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, the 1985 Bradford City Fire Disaster, the Ray Honeyford Affair, the burning of The Satanic Verses, the fall of Margaret Thatcher - but from 1989 to 1993 wrote many pieces about Europe and the first Gulf War.

Along the way he learned a good deal about word craft, headlines and design - alas not on computer. He drafted designs for the covers of all editions of Salt & Silver, for example, and every other of his books published by Redbeck Press.

The awards his journalism has won reflect his wide range of abilities:-

1988: Joint-runner up in the Yorkshire Press Awards for Sports Journalist of the Year

89/90: UK Press Gazette Columnist of the Year

90/91: Whitbread North-East Feature Writer of the Year

In addition, three times a runner-up in the BT Press Awards (North East) for feature writing, business writing and as a columnist

For his newspaper, the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford, he co-authored two best-selling books: Stories of the Century, Breedon Books and the Telegraph & Argus, 1999, and Bye Bye Broadway, Breedon Books and the Telegraph & Argus, 2005.

In 1999 the University of Leeds and Filtronik plc published Electric Century, a short book researched, compiled and written by Jim Greenhalf as a commision to mark the centenary of the University's School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

Three years earlier, Bradford Central Libraries published Boldness Be My Friend, an anthology of recollections about the late Labour MP Bob Cryer. Jim Greenhalf was commissioned to write the chapter about Bob Cryer's passionate interest in movies and movie-making.

All this work was done while Jim Greenhalf continued to do his day job.

Most of Jim Greenhalf's poetry plus the caustic, funny and sometimes poignant It's a Mean Old Scene: A History of Modern Bradford from 1974, and the volume of bitter-sweet short stories Father Jim, are published by David Tipton's Redbeck Press, at 24 Aireville Road, Frizinghall, Bradford, BD9 4HH. Tel: 01274-498135. Copies are still available of most volumes.

It's a Mean Old Scene - book review

It's a Mean Old Scene: A History of Modern Bradford From 1974, Redbeck Press, £9.99

"Be warned, this is no typical local history book, no gushing amateur Bronte biography, no rose-tinted recollection of the grind of life in the mills, no wistful trip down memory lane ending in a demand for a return to the days when trolley buses rattled along the streets and families of ten left their front doors open all night. Indeed, take a look at the title: It's a Mean Old Scene was one of Bradford's most infamous and possibly perceptive pieces of graffiti that endured throughout the 1970s.

With candour and thoughtfulness, Greenhalf tackles head-on real life in Bradford since the mid-1970s. He is one of the few people in the city to comment openly about the race question, neither side-stepping the issue with deft politically correct moves not spouting mindless, bigoted invective...

This book is a curious mix of social commentary and personal recollection. Some of the best chapters to my mind are the ones which focus on Greenhalf's journalistic exploits. Particularly notable is the moving passage on the Bradford City disaster, which begins with a newspaperman's cynicism and blossoms into a portrait of the human condition.

It's 'dark twin' is the piece on the Ripper murders, and Greenhalf's soul-bearing on how deeply the gruesome killings got under his skin must have taken great bravery to write - it is certainly not glib, easy reading...

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the things Jim Greenhalf has seen, one thing shines through this book, and it's possibly something he might be hard-pushed to admit to himself: he has a great and deep love for Bradford. Unlike many people in the city, Greenhalf cares."

DAVID BARNETT, Telegraph & Argus, Bradford, May, 2002.